The Orion's Arm Universe Project Forums

(09-22-2014, 07:56 AM)Drashner1 Wrote: You seem to be operating on the theory that the only possible response to societal stress is for society to fall apart. Historically, that isn't want happens. Society changes, it adapts, and it also innovates and looks for ways to meet the problem. While it certainly isn't a given that this will happen, neither is it a given that the only possible response is to just throw our hands up in the air and wait for civilization to die.

@Drashner:I agree that societies can and will adapt to rising oil prices. The issue is how. At present, given that changing the system will require decades and we're past peak, peak oil's no longer a problem; it's a predicament.

Here's why: Capital of every kind has to be maintained, whether it be roads, trained personnel, or information resources, and as a civilization adds to its stock of capital, the costs of maintenance rise steadily, until the burden they place on the civilization’s available resources can’t be supported any longer.The only way to resolve that conflict is to allow some of the capital to be converted to waste, so that its maintenance costs drop to zero and any useful resources locked up in the capital can be put to other uses. If a civilization depends on nonrenewable resources for essential functions ,destroying some of its capital yields only a brief reprieve from the crisis of maintenance costs. .Once the nonrenewable resource base tips over into depletion, there’s less and less available each year thereafter to meet the remaining maintenance costs, and the result is the stairstep pattern of decline and fall so familiar from history: each crisis leads to a round of capital destruction, which leads to renewed stability, which gives way to crisis as the resource base drops further.

I completely disagree with the theory that the best way to deal with the predicament of peak oil is to " is to just throw our hands up in the air and wait for civilization to die". Instead, we should preserve what we can for future civilizations.
Decades are a fairly trivial amount of time, actually. And your description here leaves out the options of the rising cost of non-renewables making renewables more competitive, new technology making renewables more competitive, continued construction of new renewable sources picking up the slack, increased use of telecommunications tech making travel less necessary, construction of nuclear sources coming to be seen as more acceptable if the alternative is societal breakdown, development of more efficient tech to reduce demand while maintaining the 'industrial' standard of living, development of better recycling technology, and location and extraction of currently unused sources that may become either more competitive or simply seen as necessary for civilization to continue - the main of this last would be mining of methane clathrates from the ocean floor. To date this last is seen as too risky, but given the choice of that or civilization collapse, someone somewhere is likely going to try it (not a preferred solution but a possibly attempted solution nonetheless. Probably other options as well, but the above are just a quick overview off the top of my head.

The issue that is being missed here is that people are not likely to simply sit around doing nothing until a bell rings and then civilization collapses. Instead, as oil becomes less available, other options become more competitive, people are driven to try new things. societies adapt, new technologies are developed, and what was an unacceptably high cost before suddenly seems like a much better deal.

All of these and other factors together have the effect of extending the remaining resources and allowing more time for further changes and solutions to be implemented. While not as dramatic (and perhaps not as satisfying) as a great global coordinated effort, it's been in play for a while now and can get the job done.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'preserve what we can for future civilizations'.
As can be seen in this research paper from the University of Melbourne, the historical record of the last four decades corresponds well with the the standard, or "business as usual," scenario from the The Limits to Growth for the same period, so the opinion that the 1972 report is wrong because civilization didn't collapse a few decades ago (a prediction which was never made by Limits to Growth, as you can see in the linked text) does not hold up.

On the other hand, this paper from an Israeli futurist offers some plausible methods of dealing with the problems of energy, pollution, and population while acknowledging the challenges outlined in The Limits to Growth.

"I'd much rather see you on my side, than scattered into... atoms." Ming the Merciless, Ruler of the Universe
One solution to the problem of peak oil is to use a much more common fossil fuel - coal - as feedstock for liquid fuel production. We already know how to do this!

Another possible source of liquid fuels, although probably a minor one, is conversion of waste fats and oils to diesel fuel. Which is actually quite easy; although eventually problems such as clogged injector ports crop up, it's quite possible to merely run used frying oil through a filter and pour the stuff into your vehicle's tank. Apparently, the problems caused by using biological oils such as this can be prevented by simply filling up with "proper" diesel once in a while.

It seems that the main problem with using fuel derived from waste oils is a legal one. In the UK, one can be prosecuted for fuel duty evasion if one is caught running a vehicle on used chip fat. Unfortunately, the use of such oils is easily detectable by smell, even by humans. The characteristic acrid smell of partially burnt diesel is replaced by a smell reminiscent of a chip shop. Smile

I don't know how many others thought of this, but the story in the news of the discovery and removal of a "fatberg" weighing several tons from a London sewer made me think of how much potential energy was being wasted by simply throwing it away.
I understand in theory, you should be paying fuel duty since your a biofuel producer(even if you don't do anything other than buy the stuff,that's a legal oddity,a retailer could presumably buy it/SVO from a wholesaler,pay duty and sell as biodiesel. Though changing the system would make it and other techs more attractive, but the poltical will is needed.

Technically I think it freezes/gels at higher temps ,so needs to be bleneded/or two-engine/tank vehicles and on top of that you still need to produce enough of the stuff in the first place, an indvidual could run thier car on it maybe a small buisness, but if everyone used it we need a lot more biofuel,and land,etc. Still might as well use the waste in some systems.
(09-22-2014, 04:17 PM)radtech497 Wrote: On the other hand, this paper from an Israeli futurist offers some plausible methods of dealing with the problems of energy, pollution, and population while acknowledging the challenges outlined in The Limits to Growth.
Interesting paper, although a few mistakes suggest that he didn't get it peer-reviewed (or the reviewers were asleep). There are real challenges to face, and most policy-makers seem to be ignoring them (Germany's flight from nuclear power is particularly short-sighted). On the other hand, MacKay points out that biofuels will be a minute resource for the forseeable future, even including power from waste. The returns are very small.
kch49er - Oh, I agree. In the UK at least, making the stuff deliberately and setting aside land for the purpose is probably a non-starter - but waste cooking oil is a problematic item that could be put to use. There is a surprisingly large amount of the stuff used; the obvious places are ones that use big fryers (fish and chip shops and KFC being the obvious ones) but anywhere that makes doughnuts or potato crisps also qualifies.
@kch49er: Here's a forum about the 70s tech movement that may be needed in the event of slow collapse.
Assuming the peak of conventional petroleum production occurred a decade ago (ca. 35 A.T.) and that the global economic crisis that began in 2007 C.E. is at least somewhat in consequence of that milestone being reached, then the next decade or so is likely to be ...interesting (in the sense of the Chinese curse). Actually, the "interesting" period is likely to last much longer, since a transition period leading to the widespread adoption of an alternative fuel has yet to begin in any meaningful way.

If "peak oil" was the only, or even just the most pressing, crisis to be faced within the next few decades, then it seems likely some sort of "solution" might plausibly be implemented with minimum disruption to the status quo. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Crises in climate change, soil depletion, food production, and the availability of potable water all loom large in the coming decades, threatening a synergistic danse macabre. Add to this the (generally negative) effects of these crises on the global economy caused by shortfalls in productivity and capital as governments try to cope, and the situation becomes significantly less than rosy. As it turns out, the impending retirements of large numbers of highly skilled personnel without a ready source of replacements, only serves to exacerbate the difficulties already present.

Will this "perfect storm" of overlapping and (in many instances) interlocking crises result in the collapse of civilization? Probably not, though what emerges on the other side of these trying times will probably be unrecognizable from the vantage point of the early 21st century (C.E.). Depending on the wisdom (or lack thereof) shown by the world's political and economic leaders during the coming decades, the scenario can range in severity from being "merely" unpleasant to truly catastrophic. The more time spent in hopeful procrastination, the greater the challenges to be overcome and the greater the likelihood that desperate measures will backfire and make things worse. Given the current state of the global response to these crises, it becomes apparent that all the workable solutions in the universe are worthless if they aren't implemented or are delayed beyond the time when their implementation can effect useful outcomes.

"I'd much rather see you on my side, than scattered into... atoms." Ming the Merciless, Ruler of the Universe
Regarding the equally pressing problem of potable water, it's worth noting that given cheap, clean energy it becomes a non-problem. Various ways of removing the salts from seawater are available, but most of them require energy and a lot of it. The energy can even be free; for one approach (admittedly only suitable in areas with a lot of sunshine near a seacoast) see:

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